World Bee Day: To Be(e) or Not to Be(e) -- The Case for Proclaiming 20th May as World Bee Day

www.slovenia.info / Dunja Wedam

"To bee or not to bee" captures the importance of bees as pollinators for biodiversity and food security; it also underlines the growing recognition of urgency required to address challenges brought about by the decline in world bee population.

These challenges affect the whole world, albeit with different level of intensity; they include: provision of sustainable and sufficient food production, adaptation to climate change, diminishing natural resources such as arable land and water supply, major price volatility of agricultural raw materials etc.

As climate change gains its place at the top of the agenda of world politics, its numerous and interdependent effects attract various degree of interest and global action. The role of bees and other natural pollinators is sometimes omitted from the discussions on climate change and on sustainable development goals.

Bees and other pollinators sustain one third of all food produced globally. The Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO) estimates that 71% of all crop species grown for human consumption depend on pollinators. Annual value of global crops directly affected by pollinators is estimated to lie between US$ 235 billion to US$ 577 billion.

Beyond the importance of pollination for the livelihood and income of farmers worldwide as well as for the food security, bees are of great importance for maintaining the ecological balance and ensuring the conservation of biodiversity in nature. At the same time, bees are important bio indicator of the state of the environment.

In the last 50 years, bees have become increasingly endangered, particularly in the areas with intense agriculture. Shrinking habitat along with negative effects of expanding monoculture areas as well as modified and intensified grassland cultivation technologyhave led to decline in development of bee colonies. The situation is made worse by new bee diseases and pests, whose impacts are aggravated by deteriorating resistance of bee colonies and impacts of globalisation that allows for the transfer of pests over long distances.

The Republic of Slovenia, on the initiative of the Slovenian Beekeepers' Associaton, hence proposed to the United Natons (UN) to declare May 20 a World Bee Day.

Why Slovenia?

Slovenia, a country rich in natural resources, takes pride in its above-average biodiversity. More than 35% of total Slovenian territory is included in the Natura 2000 network of special protection areas. Slovenia is known as a country using a "unique beekeeping method" characterized by wide varieties of honey, most of it produced by indigenous Slovenian species Carniolan Bee. Slovenian beekeeping also spurred a special form of folk art featuring painted wooden beehive front panels. The country has always been in the front ranks within the EU in regard to raising awareness of the importance of bees in the lives of humans and our planet.

Why May 20th?

May is a month when the development of bees in the Northern hemisphere is in full swing. The bee colonies swarm, engaging in their natural way of reproduction. This coincides with the peak in terms of need for pollinationof many plants. In the Southern hemisphere, May is the time of autumn, when bee products are harvested and the days of honey begin.

In Slovenia, May 20th is known as the birthday of Anton Janša (1734-1773), the pioneer of modern beekeeping. Janša was the first teacher of modern beekeeping in the world, he was appointed by the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa at the first beekeeping school in Vienna.

Why World Bee Day?

Raising awareness about the importance of bees and bee products has an important role in the effort of protecting bees and the beekeeping sector. The objective of the initiative is to contribute significantly to international cooperation in tackling global challenges in terms of global food security, eradication of hunger and malnutrition and preserving the environment from further losses in biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services. The initiative alas aims to support global efforts towards Sustainable Development Goals.

Do you know that ...

• Bees pollinate over 170,000 plant species.
• Without bees, fruits and vegetables would be much less abundant and there would be no lovely colours of flowers in the meadows.
• With 30,000 to 60,000 bees, a bee colony can be compared to a small city in terms of its population.
• The queen bee is the only member of the bee family that lays eggs, producing up to 2,000 eggs in a day.
• Honey bees' wings strike 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.
• The Carniolan honey bee, Apis mellifera carnica, is a bee subspecies native to Slovenia and the second most numerous subspecies in the world.
• For a kilogram of honey, a bee must visit four million flowers and fly four times the distance around the world.

Caption for bee photo: Today Slovenia is the only European Union member state to have protected its native bee, the Carniolan bee. This indigenous Slovenian species is regarded as the second most widespread bee breed in the world and it is famed for its docility, hard work, calm character, good orientation, and utilization of forest forage; and excellent sense of orientation. Its advantage lies in its rapid spring development, good cleaning instinct, disease resistance and frugality.

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